Art reviews

Art reviews

Cultural approximations

The many small-size and carefully commented works predominantly by British artists allow for intimate contact and overall view while, considered from the perspective of today, visualising the main factors which historically shaped the image of this country to the European outsider and, in turn, influenced the way Indians represented themselves during and after the colonial period.

The display avoids the early response to the place and its art as strange or monstrous and does not emphasise the later accents on opulence, sensuality or spirituality, focussing instead on the sometimes permeable strands of the Romantic and the realistic.

Thus it suggests the desire of artists facing an unfamiliar world to evoke their experience of its atmosphere, one that could be received and expressed primarily through the filter of their own perception and aesthetic training, and to understand as well as document new sights with maximal accuracy and some classification.

It would be unnecessary to expect masterpieces there, since major artists of the time did not travel and teach in India. Still, the exhibition has several works which are formally graceful or revealing of an approximation between two cultures, several rather conventional ones by academicians and some pretty awkward ones coming from amateur painters. This profile along with its limitations all the more effectively points towards the moulding of the persistent vision on the ordinary level.

The images from late 18th century to the mid-19th by Thomas and William Daniell, Charles D’Oyly, William Simpson and Flemish Balthazar Solvyns look at the landscape through the European paradigm of the Picturesque and the romantically mood-full.

Ancient grandeur among dramatic scenery, monuments and ruins frames the actual in the compositional norms of contemporary Europe inclusive of emphatic recesses and foreshortening in architecture or rocks against the expanses of flatness and registering the contrasts of tropical illumination within the predilection for shadowy, muted tones under clouds and sepia tints.

On the other hand, documentary curiosity results in very precise likenesses especially of famous edifices whose details and surroundings with exotic-looking people, animals and objects are rendered sharply with a sporadic regularity excess. The learning-documenting approach, evident in the realistic depictions of busy streets and ordinary human occupations by William Carpenter, dominates the later 19th century and continues in the beginning of the next.

In the hands of academic teachers in the country, like John Griffiths and John Lockwood Kipling, it becomes a classifying exactness in the images of specific trades and types or group behaviour whose realistic observation nevertheless, particularly in less skilled hands, imposes on the ethnic some bodily inflections and expressions inherited from the European academic convention.

This was passed on to the Indian students, as illustrated by Dhurandhar’s painting with a reclining, nearly odalisque-like, meekly sweet Maharashtrian lady. The characteristic colonial art school basis in clear ink or pencil outlining in combination with lighter wash was entrenched till recently in Indian aesthetic education, having both enabled direct examining of reality and twisted its perception along alien, soon anachronistic ways. The show is a delight offering such insights.
 
Adventurous students

The final year students of the Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath’s different college courses showing together at the venue (April 7 to 13) continue and intensify the comparatively bold changes that one could notice previously. Schoolish variants of old-fashioned, Modernism-based idioms, compositions dependent on design and stylised imageries may be still present receding, nevertheless, to the background. What one sees first are a greater number of works striving for a contemporary aesthetic language and topical relevance.

The sheer visibility of their older colleagues exhibiting in the city must have contributed here. Of course, many such attempts spend themselves on a play with form and frequently unnecessary complications, although being useful as exercises in fresher methods. If among the paintings one appreciates the efforts of Bharath Holla, Neha G Utmani, Sharmila Shankar, Prathana G and Mark S, it is some of the sculptures, installations and verge pieces that make one optimistic.

Of the sculptures the aggressive-protective helmet by Lokesh and the auspicious hanging chillies by Guru S are impressive, also the contributions of Anand Kumar, agni Janakiram, Alidad Kadsham and Swathi L Reddy.

Nagendra G R has an imaginative sound installation with bird and cell-phone music. Sincere and thoughtful are the doll installation by Pallavi Chander and the changing one about trash by Venkatesh K.

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